Book review: The Wife Drought

My quest to be a paid book reviewer remains stalled for two reasons: first, I’ve never once asked anyone for money to do a book review, and second, this book review comes to you express, hot out of the oven, fresh from the year two thousand and fourteen.

Annabel Crabb’s The Wife Drought: Why women need wives, and men need lives is titled and marketed on the old “women need wives” joke, ie, an adult in their home to make meals and soothe fevers and type manuscripts for free.

Crabb is also a well-known Australian political journalist — the ABC’s chief online political writer — who is best-known for hosting a cooking with politicians TV show, and probably next best known for her comic writing style, eg:

Right then. The parliamentary consideration of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act has concluded. The nation has experienced the special thrill of watching its elected representatives fight like ferrets in a bag over a legislative clause even John Howard couldn’t get excited about, and can now dully register the fact that all this fuss has produced exactly zero changes to the clause in question.

Annabel Crabb, There is nothing free about Mark Latham’s speech, April 1 2017.

One or the other of the title’s reliance on the hackneyed complaint about women needing wives, or Crabb’s journalist persona, caused a lot of people I know to write off this book unread. The marketing runs with this too:

Written in Annabel Crabb’s inimitable style, it’s full of candid and funny stories from the author’s work in and around politics and the media, historical nuggets about the role of ‘The Wife’ in Australia, and intriguing research about the attitudes that pulse beneath the surface of egalitarian Australia.
Penguin Books Australia

I suggest you don’t write it off, at least not for those reasons. It’s quite a serious book, and Penguin has buried the lede: intriguing research about the attitudes that pulse beneath the surface of egalitarian Australia. The research is central to the book: Crabb did a lot of one-on-one work with demographers to extract answers to questions that no one had answers to about gender, work, money, and career progressions in Australia. Some of the findings the book contains are in fact new findings prompted by Crabb’s questioning of demographic collaborators (who are acknowledged by name, although not as co-authors).

I found two discussions especially interesting: the way in which Australia makes part-time work fairly readily available to women with young children and the many limits of that as a solution to pay and career progression disparities between men and women; and the evidence suggesting that, contrary to the widespread perception that men are hailed as heroes by men and women alike for participating in the care of their young children, they are actually discriminated against by their workplaces when they do so.

After that Crabb’s writing style is just an added bonus to keep you going through the book. If you’re going to read a demographic exploration of gender and labour in Australia in the 2010s, it’s certainly a nice bonus that it happens to be written by Annabel Crabb of all people. Instead, the major caution I would give is that it’s very middle-class in both point of view and content, without much discussion of that limitation; and is largely focussed on women partnered with men. Assuming that the work lives of middle-class women partnered with men in Australia is of interest to you, recommended.

How to tell if you are in an October Daye novel

In the style of The Toast‘s How To Tell If You’re In a Novel series, I present a How to Tell for Seanan McGuire’s ongoing October Daye novels (spoilers through to the end of book 9).

You love and grieve for your estranged teenage daughter enormously, enough to mention her in passing periodically.

Your mother is so beautiful that those looking her directly literally risk heart failure. Almost every man you know is in love with her, except for the ones who are in love with you.

One of your best friends has staked first claim on being the one who kills you. Bringing her donuts often smooths things over though.

Your loving and infinitely patient and giving substitute father figure is probably a small-minded villain. However, his identical twin brother, who arranged the years-long torture of his sister-in-law and his young niece, may be redeemable.

Most men you know are either royalty or royalty-in-hiding.

Everyone sufficiently important smells of roses.

Your cats are known spies for the monarch of a kingdom unanswerable to you or your allies. This does not significantly alter your opinion of them. Or of him for that matter.

You got your blood on the carpet again. And on your clothes. And on the walls. And on your enemies, woe betide them.

One of the major relationship issues you and your friends worry about is having a lover who needs to sleep at night-time.

You’re getting a bit tired of everyone harping on about how you have overthrown two monarchs and that you also killed a man that one time.

You like to get high so much that you sometimes alter your biology for an optimal experience.

Teenage boys look up to you and never ever rebel against you.

You drink people’s blood in order to enter their dreams and strip them of half of who they are. They are usually pretty OK about this. You’re somewhat surprised when they aren’t.

You own the knife of a teenage girl who died thinking of you as her hero, and you live with a housemate who ate her soul and later went on to assume your face and memories too. You get on great and think of each other as sisters. It’s somehow clear to everyone that you get to keep the knife.

Prejudice against people who have an animal form or characteristics is deeply disgusting to you, but you know for sure that certain lineages of magic should never ever interbreed. You’re becoming a bit ambivalent about folks with recent ancestors from the plant kingdom too.

You aren’t the species your mother always told you you were. Your friend the part-time cat would have told you this, but he didn’t think you’d believe him.

You ultimately answer to Canada.

Podcast opinions, 2016

I shared some podcast recommendations a year ago and wasn’t expecting to update them a year later, but my listening has turned over rapidly. I haven’t spent quite as much time on it in 2016 as my older child now objects to listening to “talking” in the car. Drat! I’ll be commuting more in 2016, watch for an uptick.

New this year:

Startup. In a year I shut down a business I was naturally going to listen to the “starting a business” podcast, and to do something I’ve never done before, ie, go back and listen to it from the beginning. I found 2015’s Season 2 about the company Dating Ring a bit of a mixed bag for reasons largely outlined here, but I still enjoy the episodes about Gimlet Media itself. From 2014, Episode 3: How To Divide an Imaginary Pie in which they negotiate a co-founder equity split is a highlight. In 2015’s episodes, I enjoyed Episode 12: Burnout and Episode 16: The Secret Formula about podcast production. They’re going to profile a third company in Season 3, I am curious to see whether the episodes about external companies are ever as good as the ones about Gimlet itself.

NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, a round-table discussion of (largely American) pop culture, complete with, like Slate Money, the usual round table personality tropes emerging over time. Sample episodes: their farewell to Parks and Recreation and their review of Spy. But the best introduction of all is Peak Glen Wheldon, reviewing the Star Wars: Card Trader app. That’s in the Kimmy Schmidt episode at time 38:27, listen to that one first.

Reply All. Gimlet’s most popular podcast hasn’t quite made my “every episode” cut, but I did catch several of the highlights. I enjoyed Episode 36: Today’s the Day in which PJ and Alex have adventures in New York, and Episode 44: Shine On You Crazy Goldman in which PJ takes acid.

Returning from a year ago:

Chat 10 Looks 3, now one of Australia’s most popular (albeit still lowest production quality) podcasts. Check out Episode 20: Another Thing To Feel Guilty About in which Leigh Sales reveals herself to be a book chucker-outerer and Episode 21: Time For a New Safeword after Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister when Sales (one of Australia’s most prominent political interviewers) had previously declared his name to be her safeword.

Slate Money. I still listen to every episode even though I enjoy it a bit less now that they have a guest in most weeks. Check out The Two and 20 Edition for how venture capitalists make money.

The glorious 25th of May

This article originally appeared on Hoyden About Town.

The scent rolled over him.

He looked up.

Overhead, a lilac tree was in bloom.

He stared.

Damn! Damn! Damn! Every year he forgot. Well, no. He never forgot. He just put the memories away, like old silverware that you didn’t want to tarnish. And every year they came back, sharp and sparkling, and stabbed him in the heart.

Night Watch, Terry Pratchett, 2002

Lilac blooms with the sun shining through them
Lilac, photo by MattysFlicks@Flickr CC BY

The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels.

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have[…] a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc, etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have ‘lost’. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still know where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, 1979

Photograph of a towel draped over an arm, with a thumb up to hitch a ride
Have towel, will travel, photo by Kreg Steppe@Flickr CC BY-SA

Vetinari [said:] “As one man to another, commander, I must ask you: did you ever wonder why I wore the lilac?”

“Yeah, I wondered,” said Vimes.

“But you never asked.”

“No, I never asked,” said Vimes shortly. “It’s a flower. Anyone can wear a flower.”

“At this time? In this place?”

Night Watch, Terry Pratchett, 2002

Photograph of German editions of The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy and Night Watch, together with a lilac towl and a sprig of lilac
Remembering Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchtett, photo by Gytha69@Flickr, CC BY

Remembering Douglas Adams (1952–2001) and Terry Pratchett (1948–2015), both of whose work meant a lot to me at various times.


Image credits:

Lilacs, lighting and lens flare by MattysFlicks on Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

Thumbs up by Kreg Steppe on Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike.

25.Mai Towel Day- Handtuchtag in Gedenken an den genialen Schriftsteller Douglas Adams (1952-2001) und ‘Wear a lilac if you were there day- Trag Flieder, wenn Du dabei warst- Tag im Gedenken an die Glorreiche Revolution in Ankh-Morpork by Gytha69 on Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution, cropped and colour adjusted by the author of this post.

In memoriam: Terry Pratchett, and a Discworld reading history

This article originally appeared on Hoyden About Town.

A fussy baby woke me at 5am and I found that the news of Terry Pratchett’s death came overnight.

Hoyden About Town has had several previous threads on Pratchett’s work: Belated Friday Hoydens: The Witches of Lancre, Gratuitous Pratchett Appreciation thread: Crivens!, Sunday Series: Discworld and it’s hard to work out what to say on top. Perhaps my own me-and-Pratchett-novels stories will need to do.

I was aware of Pratchett for as long as I can remember, because I was a teenager in the 1990s and he had a good amount of shelf space in my local mainstream book store, but the Josh Kirby cover era was always instinctively offputting to me as a teenager and into adulthood. I never got so far as consciously thinking “should I read Pratchett?” I thought it was clear from the covers that it was bawdy humour aimed to men, not one of my genres. So it took two pushes to read him: the first was a recommendation from a friend and the second was a recommendation from a friend that happened to take place on a camping trip in 2000 to which I hadn’t brought enough books. (I love me some ebook era, but I think transmission of Pratchett fandom would now be less likely in such circumstances.)

The book in question, because it happened to be there in someone’s bag, was Hogfather, which as I wrote in 2012 is not a bad introduction to Discworld in that it’s fairly self-contained and has a pretty comprehensive drill into the way magic and divinity work on the Disc. Its main failing was that it meant I hoped for a while that Susan Sto Helit was the main character in all the novels. (I didn’t end up really liking any of her other novels, eg the writer M is correct about Susan in Soul Music, although I think the portrayal of the immature rationality-supremacist geek girl was intentional!)

I then read many of the Discworld books in whatever order I came across them in my friends’ libraries (the ebook era would win here!), so I met the witches about halfway through in Lords and Ladies and was perpetually disappointed that it turned out to be about halfway through. I always wanted to know the end of Magrat’s story, when she finally, inevitably (in my opinion!) outgrows Granny and they both know it. (Apparently I always trust the designated irritating woman to grow up to win.) And what will Esmerelda the Younger become?

But, despite being a Hoyden, my heart ended up in Ankh-Morpork, in the Watch subseries which I happily read in more or less publication order. Honestly, partly this is because Vetinari is a ridiculous trope who just happens to be one of my very favourite ridiculous tropes in the entire world, but it’s also because Pratchett took his frustrating and increasingly sidelined comic sidekicks, went back in time, wrote a novel largely about men doing heroic man things with one of his favourite creations in the rescuer role, niggled at me politically a couple of times in a way he normally doesn’t, and made it the heart of the series for me anyway: Night Watch, the first Pratchett I believe I bought in hardback, and what a good choice that was.

It isn’t yet the glorious 25th of May, I’m in the wrong hemisphere, and there’s no lilac anywhere near me in any case. But it will always be the image that comes to mind when I remember the heart of Terry Pratchett’s work to me.


Here’s a few Pratchett links worth visiting today:


Featured image credit: Lilacs, lighting and lens flare by MattysFlicks on Flickr, CC BY.

Podcast opinions, 2015

Over the last year, I finally joined the “listening to podcasts” bandwagon. It turns out that, like everyone else, I need a commute to up my podcast listening. My ‘commute’ is actually about 2km of walking around my suburb dropping off and picking up kids, but whatever.

Some of my regular podcasts:

Slate Money with Felix Salmon, Cathy O’Neil and Jordan Weissmann (and occasional guests). High finance and business, with occasional forays into gossip from finance journalism (Felix and Jordan) and quant-land (Cathy).

Sample episodes: The Davos Edition with Felix bringing gossip from the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos and The “Smoking Up Behind the Bleachers” Edition talking about the creation of Big Weed and also Taylor Swift not streaming on Spotify. (Clearly, I tend to find finance less interesting than business.)

NPR Planet Money. I find NPR/This American Life house production style somehow strange, it’s really unlike, say, the ABC (Australian version) to the point where I have trouble with, say, 99% Invisible seeming a bit fake or overly polished. But Planet Money avoids the uncanny valley of radio, and apparently money is my thing as a podcast listener.

Sample episodes: Bell Wars about the multi-decade feud between the world’s two handbell manufacturers and We’re Short America in which they continue a tradition of making risky investments, dig up $400 or so and short the S&P; 500 for educational purposes.

Galactic Suburbia with Tansy, Alex and Alisa talking speculative fiction and related media for about an hour and a half at a time. They have a weak spot in talking about the politics of speculative fiction because they’re often unwilling to name names (“sometimes bad things happen and I think we can agree that less bad things… would… generally speaking be… better”). Their strength is “culture consumed”: their informal reviews of what they’ve been reading and watching. They also do spoileriffic episodes when they talk about things they’ve all watched/read in huge detail.

Sample episodes: with a typical episode lasting ninety to one hundred and twenty minutes, and no formal scripting, episodes tend to be more variable. But a couple I’ve enjoyed most were Hugo Nominations 2014 and Episode 97: the Veronica Mars movie, which is quite a compliment when I’ve never seen any Veronica Mars, including the movie.

Law Report with Damien Carrick. This is an ABC radio show syndicated as a podcast, dealing with Australian legal issues or Australian perspectives on international legal issues.

Sample episodes: Lex Wotton speaks out about the death of Mulrunji and policing on Palm Island, after having his gag upheld for several years by the High Court. Very important for people interested in human rights in Australia. The problem with ‘Mr Big’ confessions, about the policing technique in which people are enticed to confess crimes to undercover police in the belief they are speaking with a senior crime figure.

Chat 10 Looks 3 with Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales. Gossip, literature and cooking with two very senior Australian women journalists. Sadly, they’ve only recorded five episodes and haven’t committed to doing any more ever.

Sample episodes: Episode 1 with Sales singing show tunes and discussion of the gendered idea of the “art monster” (the person consumed by art and cared for by a wife-cum-mother in every respect) and Episode 5 with Christmas baking and Leigh Sales’s total and complete disinterest in the beautiful birds that live in her yard.

Astronomy Cast with Fraser Cain and Dr. Pamela Gay. They do a little too much of the faux-clueless-host-listener-standin for me (although at least gender-wise it’s Fraser doing it and not Pamela), but, it’s friendly and high quality and ASTRONOMY. Right now they’re doing a series on living women astronomers, who, as usual, aren’t as well known as living men astronomers when their work is equally as good.

Sample episodes: Ep. 353: Seasons on Saturn pretty much single-handedly increased my interest in planetary astronomy to about the size of Saturn, and Ep. 360: Modern Women: Jocelyn Bell Burnell is a very interesting story featuring neutron stars, non-aggressive responses to institutional sexism (which I don’t think are better to be clear, but doesn’t mean Bell Burnell shouldn’t be heard), and male astronomers taking damage to their careers challenging institutional sexism. DID I MENTION NEUTRON STARS?

The Sydney Project quickies: Greenwich Baths, Circus Factory, The Tiger Who Came To Tea

My son begins full time schooling in February 2015. We’re coming to the end of our year of child-focussed activities in Sydney.

Greenwich Baths

Greenwich baths panorama

I’d never heard of Greenwich Baths until we went there because someone else mentioned liking the sound of them. It’s a great little harbour beach for kids. We normally go to Shark Bay at Nielsen Park in Rose Bay, which is more beautiful (but with Sydney Harbour it’s all fairly beautiful), but the beach has a rather steep drop-off that makes it less fun for kids, because they can only go about a metre into the water there. Greenwich Baths is a far better compromise between a beach that drops off so quickly that V can’t wade, and one that’s so shallow that I can’t get wet above the knee. They also have a pile of miscellaneous beach toys there. We’ll definitely go back.

We got there at 9am on a school holiday Friday and parking was pretty good, but I suspect after 10am it’s pretty typical of all Sydney swimming spots: awful.

Cost: $3.80 adults, $2.80 children.

Recommended: yup!

More information: Greenwich Baths website.

The Powerhouse Museum’s Circus Factory

I’ve previously reviewed the Powerhouse, and my son still largely treats it as a giant boring walk through boring things until you get to the Wiggles exhibit and can watch Wiggles videos. Not so great.

But we went there with another family today, and bought tickets to the Circus Factory special exhibit. They had quite a few fun exhibits, such as helium balloon animals blowing around in circles such that kids can chase and push them. And today there were hourly performances by Circa, which V greatly enjoyed since feats of strength are his thing at the moment. I’m not totally sure it was worth the price, but it was a less tedious than usual visit for us.

Cost: $35 adults, up to three children free with each adult, museum entry included.

Recommended: assuming the price is OK for you, yes. I imagine you can find cheaper acrobatic performances if you want.

More information: Circus Factory website.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea

You can tell that this isn’t primarily a review site because Andrew took V to see Sydney’s very last performance of David Wood’s adaptation of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, and so our review is useless to you, the child-caring Sydneysider. In short: Andrew reported that V enjoyed it, including singing along, which he isn’t always interested in doing in public performances, and that he had no trouble with the length and so on.

V reported only one thing, which is that you need to find your seat, that matches the letter and the number on your ticket. He has explained this to several people. Again, I suspect you can get the experience of finding a theatre seat by number cheaper than this.

It’s now playing in Melbourne.

Cost: from $26 B reserve.

Recommended: moderately.

More information: Arts Centre Melbourne website.

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (SPOILERS)

This article originally appeared on Hoyden About Town.

Warning: spoilers present in post and welcome in comments!

I understand critical response is muted/mixed, but I found it an emotionally satisfying end to the trilogy of films in a “the films are what they are” kind of way. Dwarves are silly. Physics is entirely optional, as are military tactics. Bilbo/Thorin is not very subtextual.

SADNESS: NO GOLLUM, PRECIOUS.

Wondered about/worried at!

  • The Battle of Five Armies is a skirmish of five armies. There’s no encampments, no supply lines, no reinforcements, no expectation that the battle might last more than an hour or two. Dain marched his people from the Iron Hills for this? (My fellow movie viewers noted to me that Thranduil is expecting to win bloodlessly by overwhelming display of force, but, confidential to Thranduil, you’re laying a siege. Bring some food and tents and maybe siege engines.) The Paintball of Five Armies.
  • Only the Orcs get some credit for tactics/preparedness. They have a command centre with good lines of sight, agreed signalling, and a general who doesn’t lead from the front. (Heroic to lead from the front, yes, sensible, no.)
  • Everyone else in is the tactics doghouse. I’m giving the Men of Laketown a pass: they lack tactics and preparedness because they are a desperate, starving, group of refugees. OK. The Wood Elves, on the other hand, have no such excuse.
  • How are there so many Wood Elves, anyway? Is this not the dawn of the Age of Men? I realise they’re mostly Silvan elves, but still, there are thousands and thousands of them and they’re highly disciplined warriors. Why are they not taking over the world? The Age of Elves, we could make this happen.
  • The Orc-ish forces are hugely overpowered compared to The Lord of the Rings movies: the earth-eating worms and the monsters that can head-butt their way into fortresses really seem like they should have been useful at Helm’s Deep (in The Two Towers). Saruman seems like the type who would have used them too. (And why did he bother breeding a more battle-hardy breed of Orc anyway? The Angmar version seem pretty decent.)
  • The Orcs start to lose some credit with the Thorin-Fili-Kili death sequence though. Why were the Orcs trying to trap Thorin (or, I guess, Dain, who seems as Gandalf says, more hot-headed) into single combat with their general, exactly? Of what possible tactical use could it be? Surely such a well-organised outfit has good enough intelligence to know that Thorin is on decidedly shaky ground as the King Under the Mountain (remember how he was under siege by another army?) and morale may not suffer as expected when you kill him?
  • In book canon, I believe the attack on Dol Guldur has Sauron merely pretend to fall before the White Council, as he is in fact ready to re-occupy Mordor but doesn’t want it to immediately be attacked. That would make more sense here too, but if so, we don’t see it. And Galadriel is evidently grievously wounded, but… this has no implications for anything in the future whatsoever?

One thing did sting my heart a bit: Bilbo seems to be setting off either before Thorin’s funeral, or just after it and before his wake. This seems to be a reversion to his self at the beginning of the trilogy. By this stage, it would be nice if Bilbo knew how to party or was willing to try. At least at highly personally and culturally significant moments like that one. (If nothing else, The Lord of the Rings kicks off with Bilbo throwing the party to end all parties, he has to have acquired the taste for it somewhere.)

There’s also a lot of loose-ish threads. Movie!Legolas is, it seems, off to play the role of Elrond’s sons Elladan and Elrohir (who do actually also exist in the movie canon, but not to any great effect): essentially Elvish Dunedain, and likewise motivated by an Orc-ish injury to their mother. Movie!Legolas, it seems, doesn’t even have a resolution to his mother’s story. All the more reason to go Orc-hunting! But how is that going to work out for him? If I recall the Council of Elrond in the movies right, Legolas and Aragorn don’t behave like comrades-in-arms who have seen each other recently.

Meanwhile, Tauriel is last seen grieving Kili with her status as an exile unresolved, likewise Legolas’s unreturned feelings for her.

Am I right in thinking that in this cut, the Arkenstone vanished into Bard’s coat never to be seen again? If there’s one thing that stands out to me from the book, it’s Thorin’s burial with it on his chest.

And above it all, movie!Angmar is by no means defeated. Is Jackson setting up a third trilogy without a book source (other than the Appendices) to cover the time between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings? Or is that all video game canon?

I feel like the extended edition is going to be called on to do a lot of world-building work here that the cinematic edition sacrificed for pacing. Honestly, I think a lot of this will still be loose: there just won’t be screen time in that cut either, assuming that even the original scripts answered my questions.

Ahem. So… what did you think?

The Sydney Project: Skyzone

This year is my sonÂ’s last year before he begins full time schooling in 2015. Welcome to our year of child-focussed activities in Sydney.

When I say “child-focussed”, I really mean “Mary’s inner-child-focussed”. Much like Wet n Wild, Skyzone, which is a warehouse full of trampolines, was really more for me.

The structure is that you buy access for an hour. I don’t know if they were full up for our hour, but it was the middle of the day on a weekend, which tend to be their popular times. If so, their capacity management is pretty good overall.

It didn’t start off very promisingly, with V and Andrew queueing up for a quite a while for the foam pits:

Waiting for the trampolines

I was a bit grumpy, because when there’s a one hour access window, spending most of it in queues doesn’t seem fun. Even if there were moments of fun to be had:

Into the pit

But the foam pits have the worst of the queues. V soon moved onto the basketball trampoline, and actually his shot was half-decent:

Basketball trampoliningNearly!

We spent most of the hour on the free trampolines, for which there aren’t queues:

Kids bouncing

And which still have ample fun for adults:

Foot clapping

(nb, Andrew is not jumping on the person who has fallen, it’s a trick of perspective. You know, if you wondered!)

Of course, things that you recall being easy as a kid always turn out to be an epic workout. What surprised me was the abdominal involvement called for in lifting my legs up in order to bounce from trampoline to trampoline. And the foam pit is a killer if, like me, you can’t really haul yourself out of, say, a pool without using a ladder (I have a shoulder injury that makes it difficult for me to bear weight and pull up), because it’s about five feet deep and full ofÂ… foam.

But it was great fun. If we lived just a little closer I suspect I’d probably just about live there. I think we had a bit more fun than he did, but then, if you’re following this series you know that he believes that warehouses full of trampolines and parks full of waterslide rafts are a fairly normal way to spend your time. He enjoyed it though. And it’s one of those unicorn physical activities that actually noticeably tired him.

Cost: $16 per hour per jumper, an additional $2 to buy their mandatory socks (which you can re-use). On weekdays there’s a toddler area which is $10 for a toddler and carer. Book in advance online, they often sell out their weekend timeslots.

Recommended: yup! Just a caution that on hot days, their air conditioning is not up to the task. Take water and pick your time of day.

More information: Skyzone website.

The Sydney Project: SEA Life Sydney Aquarium

This year is my son’s last year before he begins full time schooling in 2015. Welcome to our year of child-focussed activities in Sydney.

The attraction that nearly killed off The Sydney Project.

One of V’s friends A (as opposed to his sister A) had an annual pass to the SEA Life aquarium, and we thought, “well, why not, we should get one too”. We ordered online, per the website we showed up at the aquarium to pick up our pass and… waited.

And waited. And waited.

Shark tunnel
Well, to be fair, it did serve to remind me how much I love scuba diving.

They manage the annual pass process by having someone in the gift shop put them through. The queue was close to an hour in length, especially since it’s possible to impulse purchase an annual pass, and the impulse purchasers are let into the gift shop through another door and served first. I guess those of us who’ve already paid are a secondary consideration. So are our children, twitching with impatience surrounded by millions of pretty trinkets they can’t touch. So are our friends, waiting outside the gift shop so we can finally go in.

Annual pass finally issued (I have a very unattractive and grumpy photo on mine), we went inside. V was extremely impatient and darted inside. I moved to go after him when someone stepped in my way holding up a camera for the nearly obligatory family photo that they try and sell to you at the exit. “Photo?” he suggested, physically trying to herd me to the right place.

“My four year old has just run off, and I can’t see him,” I replied.

His smile faltered a little, but he kept herding me and getting between me and the corridor that V had run into. People have pointed out to me already that no doubt he was on commission, but — no. When a preschool aged child is running off in your attraction, you don’t grab their mother for a photo of the moments afterwards. “Here’s a memento of you realising we don’t give a toss about your missing child.” No.

Proceeding through the aquarium: firstly, it’s full of narrow dark corridors. This is really incompatible with my child; it makes him behave like the attraction is a maze and there’s a prize for first to solve it. It was really lucky everyone involved had an annual pass, because two families had to race through the entire thing after him while he bellowed at the top of his lungs for A to come look at whatever shiny thing had briefly attracted his attention.

In addition, one of the two underwater viewing areas was closed, and the entire thing was packed with people from beginning to end.

Luckily the annual passes are for multiple attractions, so maybe I will get a review of Madame Tussauds or Sydney Tower Eye out of it.

Cost: $40 adults, $28 children, cheaper if you buy online for non-peak periods. Children three and under are free.

Recommended: not on weekends, no. It’s like a rave without any fun bits. I’ve been there before on weekdays and it’s slightly less crowded, but it still triggers some kind of maze-running instinct in my child.

More information: SEA Life Sydney Aquarium website.